A lawyer behind a pair of lawsuits alleging Facebook allows terrorist groups to use the social network as a recruiting platform called on the company Wednesday to stop profiting from advertiser “blood money” while turning a blind eye to the influx of the ill-intentioned users.
While Facebook maintains it has employees scrubbing terror-related content from the site around the clock, attorney Robert Tolchin and his client questioned their methods — and their motives — following a hearing in Brooklyn federal court where lawyers for Facebook urged a judge to dismiss the case.
“When Facebook decided they wanted to address the issue of child pornography, they created a database,” said Micha Lakin Avni, whose father was murdered by Hamas in an Oct. 2015 bus attack. “If someone puts up a picture, not only will it be taken down, but it will be added to a database, and every picture that’s put up will be compared to that database automatically.
“But when there’s a Hamas chart put up that shows you how to effectively stab someone, it has to be reported to be taken down, and it’s not added to any database. If it’s re-posted five seconds later, it would need to be reported again,” Avni said.
“It’s blood money,” Tolchin added, saying the company just wanted the advertising revenue generated by more users, and more frequent use — even if the clicks were from terrorists.
“Facebook is just looking to make as much money as possible. The only reason they even started the database to combat child pornography is when Toys’R’Us approached them and threatened to pull out of advertising.”
During Wednesday’s hearing, Facebook lawyer Craig Primis argued that, despite the company’s “zero tolerance” policy to combat global terror communications and their efforts to do so, the social media giant was protected under the Communications Decency Act, passed by Congress in 1996. But Tolchin argued that the internet giant was “providing material support to a terrorist organization.”
To prove the inadequacy of Facebook’s current model, Tolchin revealed in court he’d had a friend in Israel set up an account Monday under the name of Mousa Abumarzook–a notorious Palestinian senior official within Hamas who has been on US Treasury watch lists since 1995.
“If you try and send a wire transfer to Abumarzook, the bank won’t let you,” Tolchin told Garaufis as he argued Facebook should be referencing these same watch lists to police content. “He’s a designated terrorist, a blocked terrorist entity. It is prohibited to do business with him.”
“There’s no reason why Facebook, [which] is absolutely automated, can’t also reference those same lists,” Tolchin concluded.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis did not rule on Facebook’s motion to dismiss Wednesday, saying he needed time to consider the “complex” issue.
Outside court, parents of Taylor Force, a U.S. army veteran who was stabbed by Hamas during a visit to Israel with a university in March 2016, spoke briefly.
“Social media is everywhere, and we don’t think the hateful speech or inciteful speech should be out there,” his mother Robbi Force murmured, her voice shaking. “My son was murdered.”